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Artificially grown human brains learn faster than AIs

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The Australian company Cortical Labs is growing artificial human mini-brains. These consist of about one million neurons that can be electrically stimulated and whose reactions can be read out.

In a study, the scientists describe how they taught these constructs a computer game that they learned and mastered faster than artificial intelligence. This “God games” raise countless ethical questions that have not been addressed in depth.

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The study on bioRxiv, “In vitro neurons learn and exhibit sentience when embodied in a simulated game-world,” explains the scientists’ achievement.

Artificially grown human brains learn faster than AIs. (Photo internet reproduction)
Artificially grown human brains learn faster than AIs. (Photo internet reproduction)

While artificial intelligence at the time of the research, in late 2021, needed just over an hour to master the task, the artificial human brains could already play the video game “Pong” within five minutes. In the process, the neurons would have restructured and adapted to the problem, just like in a real brain.

“Playing God” has thus certainly entered a new dimension. Ethical questions are not asked in the media, which report on the research results. On the facts, New Scientist also published a video via YouTube.

In 2020, Nature’s scientific journal addressed the obvious question: Can lab-grown brains develop consciousness?

Muotri, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), has found some unusual ways to use his. He has linked organoids to walking robots, modified their genomes with Neanderthal genes, launched them into orbit aboard the International Space Station, and used them as models to develop more human-like artificial intelligence systems.

Like many scientists, Muotri has temporarily focused on studying COVID-19 and using brain organoids to test how drugs work against the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. on Oct. 27, 2020

Concern about lab-grown brains has also revealed a blind spot: Neuroscientists have no agreed-upon way to define and measure consciousness. Without a working definition, ethicists worry that it will be impossible to stop an experiment before it crosses a line. on Oct. 27, 2020

So the crucial ethical questions have been asked and discussed, at least in this world-renowned journal – though they are far from resolved. The legislation is probably not even aware of this problem worldwide – there it is also more important that one clicks on annoying “cookie banners” as an Internet user because with it the data security is undoubtedly much more effective.

(Human brain cells in a Dish learn how to play Pong)


In Nature, they explain the problems in defining and measuring “consciousness” – and believe it might be easier to create conscious organic structures than to describe them.

Current clinical tests for consciousness target pain responses – which may fall far short and also allow thoughts on the issue of whether intensive care patients declared brain dead are always as “dead” as the treating physicians believe.

Muotri, the scientist quoted in Nature, sees little difference between working on a human organoid or a laboratory mouse: “We are working with animal models that are conscious, and there are no problems,” he says. “We need to move forward, and if they turn out to be conscious, I honestly don’t see that as a big deal.”


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